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  • Holly Blum, The Word Whisperer

Why Speeches Must Be Authentic

As a speechwriter, it has been especially interesting to watch the controversy over Melania Trump’s speech unfold in the media. So many people are wondering whether she intentionally plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speech. Of course, Democrats are saying “absolutely” and Republicans are saying “absolutely not.” If I had to wager a bet, I would guess that someone on her writing team looked back at Michelle Obama’s speech and borrowed some of her powerful words. But I think the real question is not whether she plagiarized, but whether her words were truly authentic. If you watched the speech, did you really believe what she was saying?

Again, your answer may depend on your political affiliation. But putting politics aside, I simply didn’t feel that her speech was reflective of her persona. I felt that her words were too lofty and that her delivery wasn’t natural. It was clear she loves her husband and America, but it didn’t leave me with a true picture of what Melania Trump is truly about.

Of course, this is one of many examples of speeches going awry. But so much of this has to do with authenticity. If a speech is not genuine, if it fails to include information that resonates with the audience, then the speech will likely fall flat. In Melania’s case, the speech became so clouded that her original intent was simply unable to surface.

I think some of the best examples of authentic speeches have been on the TED stage. If you’re not familiar with TED, it stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and it is a global set of conferences designed to spread ideas about a wide variety of topics (and all in 18 minutes or less). This style of speech is so commanding and captivating because the passion that speakers have for their ideas is highly authentic and palpable to the audience. After all, the only reason worth giving a TED Talk is that you feel so passionately about something that you are compelled to share your idea. Almost every speech presents an “AHA!” moment and makes the audience feel that something important is going to (or should) happen. If you haven’t seen a TED Talk before, check out some of the most highly watched here:

When it comes to special occasions, which is my area of specialty, authenticity is the most important ingredient to an impactful speech. Whether you’re making a toast at a wedding, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, milestone birthday or other life celebration, stay true to yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone that you’re not just because you feel that is what is expected. It may be tempting to look at web sites and watch videos of funny or sentimental speeches that other people delivered and “borrow” from them. The downside to that is that other people’s words and delivery style may be markedly different from what you would say and how you would say it.

I suggest asking yourself, does this sound like me? Do these words genuinely reflect what I want to communicate? If the answer is “no,” keep working until you find those “just right words.” And if you are still struggling, The Word Whisperer is here to help. And rest assured, if you bring me in to help you craft your next speech, you won’t have to worry about the words sounding like (or coming from) anybody else but you. All of the speeches I craft are custom-fit. No exceptions.

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